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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Community effort results in more funds for Fulton County rescue boat

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shad and Dara Overman pick up a box of barbecue dinners on Friday, May 25 to support a fundraiser for the community effort to buy a search and rescue boat for the Fulton County Sheriff's Department. The fundraiser added more than $3,000 to the rescue boat fund, and State Rep. Lori Benedict donated $3,000 from her legislative fund during the event. Photo by Richard Irby [Order this photo]
Last weekend's, Fulton County Homecoming Festival came off like clockwork because a group of committee members worked for weeks to organize the events. But one new event, which was put together on short notice, raised more than $3,000 for an important community project.

"We're going to need more baked beans," was the call from a line of workers at the North Arkansas Electric Orange Room. A tray of beans quickly appeared from the kitchen above.

On Friday morning May 25, the Orange Room was buzzing, as people in the kitchen readied barbecue, baked beans and slaw. An assembly line of workers filled up food containers, adding buns and sauce, while a third group put the meals in boxes and carted them out to vehicles for delivery.

The money raised from about 300 lunches went to the Fulton County Search and Rescue Fund -- which is actively seeking donations to the fund to buy the Sheriff's Department a search and rescue boat.

"The whole situation was frustrating," Jerry Estes said. "A child was missing (in the Spring River) and Deputies had to wait to begin a search until rescue boats from other agencies in the area could get here."

Estes was remembering the March 24 incident in which 4-year old Caleb Linn disappeared while on a work day at the Camp Kia Kima Boy Scout Camp.

"A boat would not have made a difference in this case (Linn had apparently already drowned), but Sheriff Foley expressed the need for the county to have a boat, since river rescues are fairly common. A group of us decided to begin raising money," Estes said.

Since a rescue boat will cost about $15,000, it is a big project for a poor county, but support has, according to Estes and the Sheriff, been "overwhelming."

"When rural fire departments heard about it, they immediately offered donations," Estes said.

As Estes, Sheriff Foley, Jason Miller of FNBC and others began calling individuals, businesses and organizations, the fund quickly grew.

By the time the May 25 barbecue fundraiser took place, about $5,000 was in the bank and, as plates were assembled, State Rep Lori Benedict stopped by with a check.

While her General Improvement Fund account is getting low, she made a $3,000 donation that put the project halfway to its goal.

"This was an easy decision," Benedict said. "This (the rescue boat) is something the community really needs."

"We felt like the barbecue dinners in conjunction with the Homecoming Festival could really bring in some money," Leah Burch said. Burch, North Arkansas Electric's Director of Marketing, got busy seeking donations of food and supplies to insure money raised by selling dinners would all go to the rescue boat fund.

Dennis Everett stepped up by donating the most important item -- 450 pounds of pork ready for cooking.

Coleslaw came from the Flash Market, Fulton County Hospital, and Mammoth Spring's Fred's Fish House.

The Southfork River Therapy and Living Center baked a huge order of beans, while buns came from Harp's in Thayer, the Price Chopper in Hardy, the Highlands Town and Country, and Stiles Grocery at Glencoe. Corky's of Little Rock donated a vat of barbecue sauce.

"I've been involved in a lot of community projects, but this is one of the best outpouring of support I've ever seen," said Burch. "Its come from the entire area."

While the food was donated, all that pork still had to be smoked. Jerry Estes, David Cochran and Jim Watkins served as chefs.

To insure the fundraiser was successful, North Arkansas Electric assigned about 10 employees to support it.

Summer interns went from business to business seeking advance orders, offering discounts for four or more orders and even offering to deliver the dinners on May 25.

"It sure smells good in here," one woman said as she arrived to pick up some dinners.

All the work paid off, about 250 dinners were pre-ordered, and a steady stream of customers dropped in during the lunch hour -- usually to pick up more than one dinner.

"We expect to make about $3,000 during lunch," Estes said, "and we hope to sell another $1,000 during dinner."

The Orange Room was offered as a place to eat and visit on Friday evening. Organizers figured people could eat before and during the Homecoming Street Dance on the square.

The final tally exceeded Estes' optimistic projections.

The barbecue fundraiser was so popular, the kitchen had to whip up some slaw, when supplies ran out -- and the event cleared $4,500.

"We are really thankful for all who pitched in to help, and those who bought dinners," Leah Rouse said. "We did really well."

The rescue boat fund should now have $11,000 to $12,000 in it, so a final push is planned to insure a specialized boat, equipped with search lights and a jet engine to allow travel over shoals, will be purchased.

The committee has also applied for a $5,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation.

Money is also needed to buy equipment for a planned Fulton County Dive Team, and river rescue training for a group of first responders, who have volunteered.

"We have gotten positive feedback from everyone, and everyone is working together on this, Estes said. "It really makes you appreciate the area where we live."

To make a donation, contact North Arkansas Electric, the Sheriff's Department or the Bank of Salem, where the account has been established.

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